Featured Student: Amy Pierce
Amy Pierce takes an interdisciplinary approach to her research spanning: art, anthropology, sociology, psychology, history and women’s studies and to her mediums which include: photography, performance, installation, textile, sound, videography, text, and audience engagement.
A recent graduate of the Intermedia MFA program and currently an IPhD candidate, she explores contemporary American wedding culture with a focus on how the current climate of expected perfection affects the bride’s experience of the wedding ritual. She is particularly interested in the prevalence of a phenomenon, which she has coined “perfection hysteria.” A condition that ensues as brides engage in the quest for perfection, striving to be the “perfect bride” and have a “perfect wedding.”
- Amy Pierce, Wedding Projects 2011-2013. From top: Cast (2011) performance still by Jess LeClair, Altar/ation (2011) performance still by Bjorn Grigholm, Over the Threshold (2011-12) performance documentation by Mariusz Potocki, 12 Steps to Planning the Perfect Wedding (2012-13) performance still by Mariusz Potocki, A Walk Up the Aisle (2012) performance documentation by Siglinde Langholz, Eat Drink and Be Married! (2013) public reading still by Justin Russell and Drop Cap Illustration by Amy Pierce, My Wedding Album: Perfect/Imperfect (Exterior/Interior) (2013) performance still by Matt Leavitt.
Through her work she attempts to “urge the viewer to question the roles society and self, play in constructing identity, and to rethink established conventions that are blindly transmitted and reinforced through ritual behavior.” She hopes that by bringing attention to the perfection myths surrounding bridehood that future brides might avoid the trappings of perfection hysteria.
While conducting her MFA thesis research, she identified that first-hand accounts of the motives, feelings and pressures experienced by brides during the wedding ritual were largely omitted from the existing literature. Drawing from her own experience as a bride, she created a performance installation, My Wedding Album: Perfect/Imperfect (Exterior/Interior) for her MFA thesis exhibition. In this piece she also drew on her experiences as a wedding photographer to challenge the modern wedding album’s ability to accurately portray the complexity inherit in contemporary wedding rituals and the role it plays in propagating the perfection myths of bridehood, passing down unrealistic expectations from generation to generation.
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Using materials from her own wedding, she created a contemporary wedding album depicting the public narrative of her wedding and embroidered a series of private narratives onto wedding handkerchiefs. The installation was created through an original performance where she walked across the gallery space wearing her wedding gown while the album, memorabilia, wedding gifts and ritual items formed a train of trailing objects behind her. Audience members were invited to view the public narrative on the glossy pages of the wedding album and could follow the ribbons and lift up the wedding dress to read the private narratives, which were sewed into the dresses petticoat. They were also invited to pen their own experiences at an adjacent writing station.
- Amy Pierce, My Wedding Album: Perfect/Imperfect (Exterior/Interior), Performance Installation, 2013. Performed by Amy Pierce with Jess LeClair. From left: Invitation for audience participation and documentation by Matt Leavitt (top center, second row far right, third row far left, left and center) and Amy Pierce (all others).
She describes her intention behind the piece as, “It is my hope that by sharing my own perfect/imperfect story, I will encourage others to share their stories of both perfection and imperfection and together we will begin to demystify the wedding process, build a realistic history for future brides and relieve some of the perfection hysteria felt by modern brides.”
To this end, Pierce is continuing her research through the Interdisciplinary PhD. She is developing an online survey as well as interviews, which will collect first hand personal accounts of how perfection/imperfection affects the experiences of brides during their wedding process. This will be used to inform her dissertation research and exhibition, “The Perfect Dress Project: An Exploration of Perfection Hysteria in Contemporary American Wedding Culture.”